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Competing With Puppies: Designing Games for Kids (Part 2 of 3) - Monte Cook Games
[This is Part 2 of 3! If you haven’t already read Part 1 of this series, hop over here first]. In addition to the way that age does (and doesn’t matter), I think there are the other two important parts of designing games for kids: EVERY KID (AND ADULT) SHOULD BE ABLE TO PLAY It’s not possible to make a game that everyone excels at because everyone has different skills. Numbers will be the bane of some players, while writing is the arch nemesis of others. As a kid, I failed at any game that required me to stand up and do something in front of people, because I was incredibly shy. Games like Charades terrified me. But it is possible to make a game that everyone is able to play and have a good time at. For kids, some of the biggest hurdles to game playing are the four “R”s — Rules, Reading, Writing, and Reflection. Taking a close look at these elements during the design process helps young players jump into a game quickly and easily. The Rules: Rules should be accessible, necessary, and interesting. If a rule isn’t necessary, or takes a long time to explain, consider whether it’s vital to the game (or whether it’s just too detailed). To me, the goal of rules is clarity and guidance. If a rule confuses things, constrains the players for no reason, or stops a GM from saying “Okay!” then I think long and hard about whether it’s necessary. Sometimes the rule is necessary: [combat] “I want to swing my sword and kill all the monsters in this room!” “Well, your sword lets you hit one monster at time but you get to hit it really hard. Which one would you like to try and hit first?” “That one!” “Great.” [driving rules] “I want to drive my race car super fast across the world and come back with that awesome treasure chest right now!” “Your race car is ten times as fast as walking, but it’s not that fast. Let’s see how far you and your friends can get today.” Sometimes the rule isn’t necessary, because it would force the GM to say no to something fun for the players, even though saying yes wouldn’t impact gameplay: [combat] “I want my armor to look like a dinosaur and I want to yell Rawr! while I swing my sword!” “Great. You put on your dinosaur suit. Which monster do you want to try and hit?” [driving rules] “I want to drive my race car around in circles next to everyone while we’re walking, since I’m ten times faster than everyone else!” “Great, that will make sure you’re near your friends in case anything bad happens and you can jump out of your car to help.” Rules are important, and kids will look for those boundaries and push them. The boundaries that matter should matter a lot. But once players understand those limits of the game, they should feel free to be as creative as possible inside them. Reading: Some kids are fantastic, enthusiastic readers who will read entire corebooks for pleasure. Others will read the bare minimum for what they need to know right now. Others will do everything possible to avoid reading. This might be because they haven’t picked up the skill, they’re struggling with issues like dyslexia, or they can read but just don’t like to. Ways to help this are by choosing easy-to-read fonts in appropriate sizes and colors (I’ll talk more about this in part 3, and talk about fonts, styles, and sizes that seem to …
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